Monday 3 April 2023

Parroy (back on board)

Ten years ago, we started living full time on the boat so we could explore the waterways of England and Wales.  Little did we know then that six years later we would be moving it to France.  This year will be our fifth since bringing it over here and at its conclusion we will reach an important administrative landmark.  The arrival of Brexit meant that in order for us to come and go as we please and keep our boat in France we had to become French residents.  In the normal day to day scheme of things this means very little but on the larger scale there are a few downsides such as being subject to both UK and French taxation.  To be fair the taxation implications were easily managed once we got our heads around them, especially as the UK and France have kept their double taxation treaty to avoid all types of income being taxed twice.  There are upsides too such as benefitting from a superior health system, not needing long stay visas and being exempt from the upcoming ETIAS entry fees and, although some people would have frowned at the freedom afforded, being able to travel between the two countries during the Boomer Remover pandemic.

The landmark I mentioned above is that we will become permanent residents meaning that we won’t always have to spend the majority of our time in France.  This will coincide nicely with our changing lifestyle in the UK where the number of grandchildren continues to grow creating an extra pull to spend more time in the country.  Also, we have finally found a home in Flecknoe the village we’ve wanted to live in since we first went there nearly ten years ago.  Over the last few years Karen has received alerts as houses came on the market in the village, which sits on a hill overlooking the Grand Union & Oxford canals in Warwickshire.  Although she received a few alerts the houses were either too large or not to our style until one came up towards the end of 2022.  We fell in love with it immediately, made an offer which was accepted, and moved in four weeks ago at the end of February. 

In addition to the usual stresses arising from moving home, the house purchase brought its own logistical nightmare because of our French residency.  In order to avoid paying additional non-residents’ stamp duty in the UK we had to ensure we’d been in England for 183 days of the 12 months prior to completion.  One of the requirements of maintaining French residency is that we have to be in France for at least 183 days during each of the first five years.  Fortunately for us the 12-month qualification periods for French residency and foreign residents' UK stamp duty were different for us so we were just able to meet both requirements.

We’re back on board now and getting ready for cruising through pastures new.  Since being in France we’ve learnt that planning a year’s cruising can be futile as the water supply issues often mean canal closures and rapidly changed plans during the latter months of the year. To that end we have set a target that will take us to June which is when we are booked into a boatyard to have the bottom blacked.  So our plan for the next few months is to make our way to the river Meuse with its beautiful valleys that we will follow downstream into Belgium and then back into France onto the canal des Ardennes and continue south to the boatyard at Vitry-en-Fran√ßois.  This route is the continuous black line, starting in the east, on the map below.

Black line is the route until June (760 km through 210 locks)

Our tentative plan for the rest of 2023 will be to follow the broken black line from Vitry to explore the Doubs valley ending up at Mulhouse on the border with Switzerland.  Not only is the Doubs valley meant to be picturesque it is entirely new to us.  We will have to travel the length of the canal entre Champagne et Bourgogne to get there.  Although we have cruised that canal before, boaters are being encouraged to use it in order to keep it open because commercial traffic is very light nowadays as it tends to use other north-south routes.  This tentative plan will take us through 231 locks over 490 km.

Even though we were back in the UK for longer than usual during the winter we still felt we were constantly on the go.  As well as being able to spend time with all our children and grandchildren, including a long weekend in Barcelona supporting Catherine to complete her first marathon, we did manage to meet up with some boater friends.  We had a long leisurely lunch with Pam & Charles who also live in Caversham where we have our flat.  They brought their boat back from France the year before we went out and provided much invaluable advice about boating in Europe during our planning stage.  We also caught up with Paul & Sue who brought their boat back last year and also live close by.  It feels like a lot of Brits are giving up boating in Europe especially as Nikki & Gorete, who we spent a great weekend with down in Dorset, have now sold their much-loved boating home of many years.  During our careers both Karen and I spent time at Legal & General where we met other boaters, Chris & Sue and Mike & Lesley.  As well as the link through working together we all bought new narrowboats and, independently chose the same constructor for the steelwork.  If they weren't enough coincidences, we have all moved from the south to the Midlands and now live a few miles from each other.

One advantage of having a land-based home again is that we’ve been able to dispense with our storage unit that we’ve had since renting out our previous home back in 2014.  We’ve also been fortunate to let our flat with the tenants moving in a couple of days after we moved out.  Another milestone reached during the winter break was finally finishing my parent’s probate.  Writing that reminds of the sad news that Rick Cooper died at the beginning of this year.  Rick ran the 90-year-old fuel boat Auriga in the Coventry area and supplied us with diesel, coal, gas and good stories many times when we were continuous cruising in his area.  We always admire the fuel boaters around the country who have to work hard in all weathers as well as having to live in cramped conditions.

Rick pulling alongside to refuel us on 7th September 2016

Over the years we have been refuelled by many different fuel boaters, who each have their own patch to ply their trade, some operating as couples and some single handing like Rick.  Here are just a few of the many fuel boaters who have served us:

Jules & Richard – on the central Grand Union with their motorboat & butty

Lee & Roberta – operating in the Stoke-on-Trent area

Steve & Liz – with a motorboat & butty, operating in central London

Jon & Hannah with their extended family delivering on the Llangollen (no they don’t all live on board)

Mark – a single hander on the northern Grand Union around where we now live

I’ve always felt that buying a home on land would mark the end of my active life.  Having now done it, I find it’s strange as I no longer have that feeling and am quite happy having boat and dry land lives, maybe it’s because we’re living where we hope to make our home for the rest of our lives.  

We’ve both been in two minds about how we feel about leaving Flecknoe and going back to France but over the last few days before we left we both started feeling excited to be returning.  Now we’re back in Parroy getting ready to start cruising we’re really happy and can’t wait to start this year’s adventures.


R said...

Hi. Nice to catch up on all your news and see you have returned to France. The route mapped out
carries you through some beautiful scenery have a nice trip. Should your travels bring you my way please let me know some Champagne will be waiting for you. Take care.

Anonymous said...

Great to see you both and wow after 8 years of living on the water, cruising and living with nature moving back into a house is definitely not where our hearts are! Can’t wait to get back to France, find our new boat and love life again on their beautiful canals and rivers!
See you there very soon! ūüėä

Ian said...

I admire your energy and competence in setting all this up - still, now it’s time to relax into the familiar. Good luck with the cruising and, while similar to you we have very little in the way of plans, we may be nearby sometime this year. Looking forward, of course, to the stories about your travels.

Doreen Follows said...

Bon voyage and happy cruising. We get back to Lizzie soon, after nearly 4 years with only 1 day boating, taking her to GannaysurLoire from Decize for urgent works due to the curse of the covid/brexit/climate change. We have plan A to Z but will take it as it comes and Enjoy it. Good luck. Ray and Doreen